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February 26, 2024
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Khmer New Year Festival at UMB

Students+pose+at+the+Khmer+New+Year+celebration.

Students pose at the Khmer New Year celebration.

On April 11, the Khmer Student Association (KSA) held their annual New Year Festival at the University of Massachusetts Boston, which was filled with spectators. 
“In Cambodia, everyone is out on the streets wishing each other and their families success, peace, and happiness. It is a day when the younger and older generations come together to celebrate the Khmer roots and origin,” said KSA President Thary Lim.
“[This] promotes Khmer culture and existence on campus, where not many students are aware of the Khmer Culture is great. So it was shown to UMass Boston community what it means to be Khmer. We are happy to celebrate the New Year,” said Lim.
“Our Khmer New Years event is focused on bringing many great talents, such as spoken word artists, dancers, singers, and talented Khmer American youths to build a bridge between the greater Boston area with UMass Boston,” she added.
There was a Ceremonial Blessing, where two monks from the Wat Ratanarangsi and Revere Buddhist Community Inc. chanted a prayer with their interweaving monotone and rhythmic syllables. For the Khmer in attendance, it may have reminded them of home, yet for a foreigner to the culture, it may have inspired a sense of magic.
One of the first few acts was a legendary song in Cambodian culture, sung in Khmer by Vannara Chim, a 3rd year Mass Boston student. The musical style was that of a classic rock song with a guitar solo. The Cambodians in the audience whooped, yelled, and whistled in excitement as the performer hit the extended high notes.
There was a fashion show incorporated into the show, where several ornate dresses and vestments, traditionally worn at a Khmer wedding, were showcased. Models walked down the stage in male-female pairs, showing off pairs of same-colored dress, as if on a fashion show catwalk with poses and picture-taking fully included. The dresses themselves were adorned with shimmering silver and gold embroidery on top of bright colors, including deep blue, fiery red, sea-green, warm white, and straight black.
There was also a traditional Khmer coconut dance in which local Khmer students from Lynn dressed up in rural Khmer party dress, and in choreographed manner, clicked empty half-shells of coconut together to the beat of traditional song.
A wordless skit, performed with background music, portrayed forbidden love where parents encounter their daughter with an unauthorized suitor in the middle of the night. The mother pulls her away while the father gets into a scuffle with the young lad. However, in a display of fake martial-arts, the younger man gets the best of his elder and wins back the young lady to elope with. 
In a mixed media performance, the emotion felt by the Southeast Asians displaced by the war from 1961 for decades onwards was evoked through interpretive dance, spoken word poetry, documentary narration, and interview footage. Sokeo Ros, a choreographer, designer, director, and hip-hop dancer, arranged the performance. 
The dance troupe was comprised of kids from the Greater Boston area. His full piece is called “From Refugee Camp to Project,” which was shortened for the event.